Yu Darvish made his first Major League start last night in Arlington, TX. 42,003 fans showed up for it and I was one of them. Unfortunately, the night didn’t go exactly as scripted.
The Yu-mania was apparent from the moment I arrived at the park. Outside the Home Plate entrance, at least two dozen Japanese fans were gathered together with banners and signs and a giant cardboard cutout of Darvish’s face.
Once I was inside, I heard the largest roar of the crowd that I’ve ever heard at a baseball game. The roar came as Chuck Morgan detailed the Rangers’ starting line-up. Darvish’s name was announced and it was as if a bomb were going off. I’ve yet to attend a playoff game, but this was deafening.
When the game finally got rolling, things were…different. There was a palpable buzz when Darvish made his way to the mound, but it wasn’t nearly so after four straight balls to Chone Figgins. The long awaited debut of (perhaps) the greatest Japanese pitcher in history began with a walk.
Dustin Ackley followed by striking out. We all assumed that the first guy was just nerves and that it would be smooth sailing from there on out.
Ichiro stepped to the plate and the eyes of Japan were locked on this moment. Nothing about it was so dramatic as an upper deck long-ball or a three-pitch strikeout. Instead we got a bloop single just beyond the reach of Adrian Beltre.
It was followed up with two more singles, a wild pitch, a walk, another single, and another walk. It became nearly impossible to watch and everyone wondered how long this could go on. With each ball thrown, the crowd audibly groaned, though I believe it was more frustration with the situation and not Darvish himself.
At the end of the 1st, Darvish had recorded 3 outs, gave up 4 runs, faced 10 hitters, walked 3, struck out 2, and threw 42 pitches.
I don’t need to give my account of the rest of the game, really. Darvish gave up one more run, but started to find it in the 3rd. All told he went 5.2 innings with 110 pitches. I have to tip my cap to Ron Washington and the coaching staff for just letting him work.
The mantra under Nolan Ryan has always been to let pitchers get themselves out of their own jams. What good could have come from pressing the panic button on the first inning of Darvish’s first start? He threw a ton of pitches and the strike zone was impossible to find at times, but he got through it.
Now he knows that he can survive this stuff, but he also knows that he isn’t bullet-proof. If it’s possible, this could be a start that both humbled him and instilled him with even more confidence. We’ll have to see how he responds in his next start and the next start after that.
Also of note…
- If you’re still worried about what this start means going forward, I’ll offer you the following stats:Pitcher A: 9 H, 6 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 3 HR
Pitcher B: 8 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, 0 HRPitcher A is Cliff Leein his first start as a Texas Ranger. Pitcher B is Darvish last night. The stats themselves are somewhat deceptive, because Lee pitched a full 9 innings in his debut.Still, both of these games were subject to unprecedented hype and neither really lived up to that hype. Looking back on Lee’s short time in Texas, I doubt that first start means very much to most Rangers fans.
- I don’t think I’ve ever seen Josh Hamilton get in an umpire’s face like he did last night. In the 3rd inning, Jamilton appeared to have slid beneath a tag at Home, but was called out. He didn’t like the call and immediately unloaded on the ump. Then he kicked a bat as he walked off the field.
- The new stuff out past Green’s Hill is spot on. There’s more restaurant and grill space, the new kid’s zone, and the new visitor’s bullpen. Two thumbs up on the renovations. They all look fantastic.
- My normal Ballpark routine as far as food and beverage is two jumbo dogs and as many bottles of water as I need to survive in the Texas heat…
…but that won’t be the case anymore, my friends. I had the opportunity to try one of the new bacon-wrapped hot dogs and it was most impressive. The hot dog comes with chips and costs $9.25. They also have extra toppings like grilled onions, jalapenos, and shredded cheese. Two jumbo dogs costs $9, don’t come with extra toppings, and aren’t nearly as satisfying.Go with the bacon-wrapped if you get a chance. You probably won’t regret it.
So, that’s my report from last night’s game. It didn’t start out the way we all hoped, but the team got a win and it’s something to build on. All around a good night to spend at the Ballpark.
Press on, Rangers fans.